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EPA Strategic Environmental Noise Maps Round 3

The EPA have issued Round 3 of its Strategic Noise Maps.  The main focus of noise maps is for strategic management of environmental noise, based upon a notional annual average day.

Round 3 Strategic Noise Maps can be viewed on EPA Maps under “Environment & Wellbeing – Noise”. 

The data can be downloaded from the EPA Database option of the Get data page.  Access the data as a Web Map Service.

Environmental noise is ‘unwanted sound’ arising from all areas of human activity such as noise from transport (road, rail & air traffic), as well as from industrial and recreational activities.

In 2018, the World Health Organisation (WHO) published Environmental Noise Guidelines for the European Region, which sets out how noise pollution in our towns and cities is increasing, and that excessive noise particularly from transport sources is a health risk – contributing to cardiovascular diseases and metabolic effects. The main purpose of these guidelines is to provide recommendations for protecting human health from exposure to environmental noise originating from various sources: transportation (road traffic, railway and aircraft) noise, as well as wind turbine noise and leisure.

Strategic Noise Maps
A strategic noise map is designed to assess noise exposure in a given area, resulting from particular noise sources for major roads (>3 million vehicle movements/annum), major rail (>30,000 rail passages), major airports (>50,000 air movements/annum), & agglomerations (Dublin and Cork >100,000 inhabitants).

These maps are normally prepared using computer modelling techniques. Such techniques calculate the noise level at specific points resulting from the sound emanating from the source being studied and the attenuation of the sound during propagation between the source and the receiver. The modelling software uses source data such as traffic flow, type of road and rail, types of vehicles and speeds etc. plus terrain data such as contour lines, ground cover, buildings, barriers and bridges.

The noise maps are the product of assimilating a collection of digital datasets, and over the past 10 years there have been some significant improvements to the quality of the digital datasets describing the natural and built environment in Ireland. This has led to the strategic noise models being based on increasingly detailed and accurate data, which has in turn has led to more reliable noise results with much less tendency to over predict the impact.

In accordance with the requirements of the Noise Directive, the EPA has made available the strategic noise mapping of agglomeration, major airports, major roads and major rail networks, in the form of noise contours for the Lden (day, evening, night) and Lnight (night) periods. A noise map is a graphical representation of the predicted situation with regards to noise in a particular area with different colours representing different noise levels in decibels [dB(A)].

All noise maps are presented in terms of two noise indicators: Lden and Lnight.

  • Lden is the day-evening-night noise indicator and it represents the noise indicator for overall annoyance. It is ‘weighted’ to account for extra annoyance in the evening and night periods. The Environmental Noise Directive defines an Lden threshold of 55 dB for reporting on the numbers of people exposed.
  • Lnight is the night time noise indicator and is used in the assessment of sleep disturbance. An Lnight threshold of 50 dB is defined for reporting on the numbers of people exposed.

These indicators are based on year long averages of the day (07:00-19:00), evening (19:00-23:00) and night (23:00-07:00) time periods.

The Environmental Noise Directive, EC 2002/49/EC, was transposed into Irish Law as Statutory Instrument, S.I. No. 140/2006 – Environmental Noise Regulations 2006.

The Environmental Noise Directive (END), requires Member States to prepare and publish, every 5 years, strategic noise maps and noise management action plans. The aim of the END is to provide a common framework to avoid, prevent or reduce, on a prioritised basis, the harmful effects of exposure to environmental noise through the preparation of strategic noise maps and the development and implementation of action plans. (Click Here)

Roles and Responsibilities
The EPA is the national authority for overseeing the implementation of the Regulations. This role includes supervisory, advisory and coordination functions in relation to both noise mapping and action planning, as well as various reporting requirements for the purpose of the Directive.

Responsibility for the preparation of the relevant noise maps lies with the Noise Mapping Bodies (NMBs), which include Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) responsible for National roads & the Luas, Local Authorities (LAs) responsible for non-national roads, Irish Rail (heavy rail), Dublin Airport Authority (daa), as well as Dublin City Council, Fingal, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, & South Dublin County Councils (Dublin agglomeration) and Cork City and Cork County Councils (Cork agglomeration).

The preparation and implementation of the resulting noise action plans occurs at local level and is the responsibility of the Local Authorities.

Noise Action Planning
Following the preparation of the noise maps, the relevant Action Planning Authorities (APAs) – i.e. the local authorities – are required to prepare noise action plans where the Lden (55 dB) and Lnight (50 dB) thresholds have been exceeded. These action plans are designed to manage noise issues and effects, and it involves the prevention and reduction of environmental noise.

Each LA should identify their noise sensitive locations, which may include drawing up a short list of potential areas for action, both above the recommended onset values for noise mitigation measures, and below the recommended level for preservation (to help identify Quiet Areas). The EPA has produced guidance for Local Authorities on the content of such plans.

Verde Environmental Consultants provide a number of noise & acoustic related services including:

  • Community noise measurement and complaint response.
  • Noise impact assessments for planning applications.
  • Measurement and assessment of occupational noise exposure.
  • Predictive modelling and design of noise reduction strategies.
  • Construction and operational noise management.
  • Specialist guidance on noise standards and publications; ISO 1996, BS4142, BS 8233, ISO EN 61400-11, ETSU-R-97 etc.

Verde Environmental Air and Noise Monitoring Capability Document